MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minneapolis Police Department introduced a new initiative Wednesday called "Operation Safety Net" that will bring together local and state law enforcement agencies to respond to any potential civil unrest surrounding upcoming Derek Chauvin trial.
Chauvin is charged with murder in connection with George Floyd’s death in police custody last May. Floyd’s death set off several nights of riots in Minneapolis and St. Paul and public safety officials fear similar unrest during Chauvin’s trial, which is scheduled to begin March 8.
Officials have been planning for the Chauvin trial since the summer. They say Operation Safety Net will be a unified command for the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments as well as the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Metro Transit Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota National Guard and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Officials say their goal is to preserve the First Amendment right of people to peacefully protest while preventing large-scale violent disturbances, property damage, fires and the destruction of government buildings and critical infrastructure.
"We want to protect everyone’s rights, but if you cause harm, break things, burn things, hurt people, hurt people’s livelihood, I’m here to say: you will go to jail," Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said. "We will arrest everybody who breaks the law. We’re not going to tolerate disorder."
Hutchinson said his office will provide court security and "ensure the integrity of the court proceedings."
"We’re not going to allow disruption," he said. "The court needs to go on. We all want to see justice served."
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said law enforcement officers from across the state will be coming to the Twin Cities during the trial to provide mutual aid.
"I expect to see in the Twin Cities patches from all over the state of Minnesota," Harrington said. "You’re going to see uniforms of all kinds of different colors. You’re going to see squad cars from all kinds of different places coming here together to say with one voice that we support the first amendment and that we are going to protect the Twin Cities."
Gov. Tim Walz has already activated the Minnesota National Guard to provide public safety assistance to both Minneapolis and St. Paul during the trial.
"I realize the sight of soldiers in our communities is not a sight any of us want to see," said Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke. "It is my sincere hope that the people in our communities understand we are not a threat; we are here to provide security."
The trial will be broadcast live, which Harrington said has prompted concerns of more people coming to the Twin Cities from out of state, including extremist groups. However, he said as of right now, officials do not have any intelligence that suggest groups are planning to come to Minneapolis to "disrupt the trial or cause disorder."